Mid-Century Marvels

Continuing on the Course

Dellinger, Bill: Track Coach [5] (recto)
Dellinger, Bill: Track Coach [5] (recto)

Bill Dellinger: Director of Distance

One of Oregon’s first great distance runners, Bill Dellinger captured countless honors. Over the course of his career, Dellinger set six American-records and two world-records. Arguably, his best race came in 1956 at the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials when Dellinger crushed the American 5,000-meter record (14:26) and gained a ticket to his first Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia. After his competitive running career, Dellinger went on to follow Bill Bowerman as cross country and track and field coach at Oregon.

Bill Bowerman, Bill Dellinger and Jim Bailey, 1955
Bill Bowerman, Bill Dellinger and Jim Bailey, 1955

Jim Bailey: Dynamo from Down Under

Jim Bailey chose to attend the University of Oregon because he liked the way alumni talked about their school. Little did he know that soon people would be talking about him. The Australian native was a key contender in the 1,500-meters and mile during the mid-1950s. After winning the mile at the NCAA Championships in 1955, Bailey became the first person to run a sub-four minute mile on U.S. soil during the spring of 1956. In what is arguably one of Bailey’s best races, he upset world-record holder and Australian teammate John Landy in Los Angeles on May 5, 1956. Bailey also competed on the Australian 1,500-meter squad at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

1955: NCAA Champion (mile)

1956: NCAA Runner-Up (1,500-meters)

First person to run sub-four minute mile on U.S. soil

Olympic contender (1,500-meters)

Dyrol Burleson with Coach Bill Bowerman, 1960
Dyrol Burleson with Coach Bill Bowerman, 1960

Dyrol Burleson: Miracle Miler

Six-time American-record holder Dyrol Burleson ran the first sub-4 minute mile race at Hayward Field. Among his countless honors, Burleson was a three-time NCAA Champion and a two-time Olympian. Burleson and teammate Jim Grelle both ran the 1,500-meters in the 1960 Rome Olympics, in which Burleson set a new American-record with his sixth place finish. He also placed fifth in the 1,500-meter race at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Burleson rounded out his career with three National AAU Championships.

Six-time American-Record Holder (1,500-meters twice; mile twice; 2-mile; 4-mile relay)

1960: 1,500-meters (set twice)

1960: mile

1961: mile

1962: 4-mile relay

1962: 2-mile

Two-time Olympian (1960, 1964)

Three-time National AAU Champion

1959: 1,500-meters

1961: mile

1963: mile

Three-time NCAA Champion

1960: 1,500-meters

1961: mile

1962: mile

Otis Davis: Golden Boy

Otis Davis stole the show during the 1960 season. The Oregon sensation brought home two gold medals for the United States in the Rome Olympics, winning top honors in the 400-meters and the 1,600-meter relay. Davis’s 400-meter mark of 44.9 seconds earned him world and American-records in 1960 and still stands as the University’s record. Although Davis’s dazzling work on the track made him a legend, basketball was actually his first sport of choice. Davis didn’t take up track until the age of 26 when he was a student at the University of Oregon.

Harry Jerome
Harry Jerome

Harry Jerome: Canadian Duck

Two-time NCAA Champion Harry Jerome sprinted his way to prominence during a time when Oregon was developing a reputation as a distance running hub. Jerome, a three-time Olympian for his native country, Canada, captured bronze in the 100-meters during the 1964 Tokyo Games. He also held three world-records during the course of his career.


1960: 100 meters

1961: 100 yards

1962: 100 yards

Mac Wilkins, 1972
Mac Wilkins, 1972

Mac Wilkins: Titan of Throws

Mac Wilkins made a name for himself with his ability to hurl the discus. A three-time Olympian, Wilkins won the gold medal with his throw of 221’5 (67.5m) at his first Olympics, the 1976 Montreal Games. His victory established him as the first American to win gold in track and field at the Games. In the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, Wilkins captured the silver medal, and he earned a fifth-place finish at the 1988 Seoul Games. During his career, Wilkins was also a five-time National Champion, the 1973 NCAA Discus Champion, and a world-record holder in 1976.